Reporting in the regional press

regional pressHannah Upton was named NCTJ Reporter of the Year at the 2012 Awards for Excellence. She writes about starting work and life as a trainee in the regional press.

After completing a PG Diploma in Newspaper Journalism at UCLan back in 2010 I was job hunting for about two months, though it felt more like an eternity.

My coursemates and I had merrily ignored the warnings that jobs might be scarce and we would be skint for the rest of our careers. We just wanted to change the world. One council meeting at a time.

Luckily, I had spent two weeks on work experience at the Nelson Leader during my course and when a vacancy came up there I was in a good position to convince the editor he should take me on.

Some of my coursemates had to wait longer, and some found they didn’t want to go into newspapers at all but used their skills to move into PR and communications. One spent months with the NHS before moving back into newspaper journalism. Looking back now, that short period of time when I worried if I would ever find something in an area I would like or could afford to live just fades into insignificance.

I spent nearly two years in Nelson, covering a brilliant patch on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, before my dream job in the Lake District came up.

It’s not everyone’s idea of journalism heaven. A former colleague in Nelson headed almost simultaneously for the bright lights and fast-paced life of a Manchester-based press agency. While she was investigating the tragic murders of the two police officers in Tameside, I was probably drinking tea with a farmer and admiring his collection of carved crooks. But that’s show season in the Lakes for you.

Not that we don’t have our moments. I’ve covered murders and other violent crimes, and seen just as much of the depravity of people as you would find anywhere. And we do suffer something of the backlash of the Leveson Inquiry; we seem to have to work harder now to convince people that we don’t just make stories up. But a collective sense of humour gets us through most things and it really is the best job in the world. How can meeting people from all walks of life and writing about them ever feel like work?

When I am driving around the Lakes by myself, or down into the Yorkshire Dales, or find myself looking across Morecambe Bay, I sometimes have to pinch myself. And the fact I have met Aled Jones, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the Archbishop of York in the last few months has kept my Nan very happy. I may not be rolling around in wads of cash at night, but I’ve learnt to be much more thrifty – so much so I’ve asked my editor if I can write a money-saving column!

My biggest tip….

Get as much experience as you can. Not only is it good to learn how the whole process works, and how Newsdesk wants its stories, but every new person you meet is a potential contact who could help you out in future.

And when you get that experience, don’t be shy. But also don’t be too bolshy. It’s important to make an impression on the boss, but in my experience, impressing other reporters is just as valuable too because we will quite often quip up when there is a vacancy to say: ‘I remember him, he was really good’. Even better, come in with your own ideas. It’s not difficult to separate the person who just helps to clear the overflowing press release tray from one comes in with a splash, or at least a page lead.

I would also say that there are jobs out there, even if it seems like there are a hundred graduates of degrees, post-grad and fast track courses going for one position. It’s quite a fluid industry and someone is always on the move, especially once they have completed their training.

Just keep in touch with as many newspapers as you can and persistence will always pay off.